There is one immutable rule of dog training when it comes to controlling that muscle-headed bundle of energy known as a Labrador retriever. Do not unleash ol' Thickskull in a pecan grove. Reason: Squirrels love pecans, and they inhabit pecan groves in inordinate numbers. Dovetailing neatly with this fact is the known predilection of Labs for squirrels. The breed would rather chase a squirrel than eat, which, since a Lab compares favorably with the great white shark as an insatiable omnivore, speaks volumes. So, put a Lab in a pecan grove and what results is complete insanity. The dog goes crazy bounding around and barking up every tree in the 40-acre woods, and the owner goes quietly nuts trying to reign in his charge's mindless enthusiasm. It's not a pretty sight, as discipline on both sides goes out the window. The fluorescent yellow tennis ball, object of months of intensive training in the art of fetching, will lay untouched where it lands. So many squirrels, so little time.
I am that Labrador retriever. And eBay is my pecan grove. There. I've said it.
It started innocently enough. I needed a motor for the Greyhound. I found one on eBay, bid on the thing, bought it-including the '72 Bavaria box it came in-and went to the Chicago environs to collect my prize. No problem, and I even enjoyed the process. But it didn't end there. Oh no.
I began to spend many of my precious waking hours surfing eBay. These were hours that should have been occupied by the Greyhound, but I was too busy bouncing electronically from classic to classic. So many cars, so little time.
And there were any number of lovely orphans out there, lacking just a few "finishing touches" (read: total rags, every part shot, needing years of intensive work). Many of these jewels-in-search-of-a-new-home were cars that rarely appeared in our daily's classified section but remained on my "gotta have" list. For instance, I've always been a huge fan of BMW's little New Class box, the 2002. And though I had owned at least 10 of them over the last 25 years, a high-performance fuel-injected version, the tii, had somehow eluded me. "It doesn't have to be that way," I reasoned. "Now, I've got eBay!"
So the square-taillight 2002tii located right up the road (right up the 600-mile road, that is) in Charleston, S.C., was a no-brainer...literally. I bid a mere $1,300, won the car, and road-tripped to haul it home. Not once during the process did I chance to think, "What the hell are you doing? You have a race car to build!"
Of course, a $1,300 tii will need "sorting." Lots of it. The previous owner had the mechanical fuel-injection pump timed 180 degrees out of phase, the throttle body linkage had no apparent relationship to the fuel-injection pump, and the electrical wiring was, in a word, screwed. All this stuff takes time to straighten out. Then I had to go into the mechanical fuel-injection pump's guttyworks to fix a lack of pressure on the number-two cylinder, and though the operation was a complete success (there are many brain surgeons out there weeping bitter tears of envy at those words), it took time. Yes, all it takes is time. Meanwhile, progress on the Greyhound was glacial at best.
But the tii eventually became a viable daily-driving entity, and that was my cue to resume work on the Greyhound-or was it? Maybe not. While casually perusing the "Other Makes-A through M" heading of eBay, my attention was distracted by a most wondrous classic: a Glas 1300 GT. Built in the '60s, this brainchild of Hans Glas (of Goggomobile fame) featured a handsome coupe body styled by Frua and a unique 1.3-liter overhead cam engine. There are less than a thousand out there today, of which maybe half are roadgoing examples. Think of it! Actually, think impossible parts situation, think perpetual money pit. But I had to have it, so I bought it. It was cheap. I went bounding on to the next irresistible bargain: an Alfa Giulia Sprint GT.
This one was a 1966 basket case, but the Bertone unit body was in salvageable shape, and it came with a ton of parts. I had one back in the early '70s, and if they're not the best-looking coupe Bertone ever designed, they're close. So I bid, bought and dragged. It was becoming second nature by now.
Finally, at this last bit of unthinking pursuit, I must have reached the end of my mental choke-chain, because I stepped back, looked at my pile of "good stuff" and wondered, "Who the hell did this?" My 1,900-sq-ft basement was full of parts, my yard was full of cars, and I was doing a pretty fair job of filling my kid's yard with derelicts, too.
It was time to reacquaint myself with Job 1: The construction of a Track Monster, one Junkyard Greyhound. So where were we anyway?
We were at one of the hard parts, the reconstitution of a frayed-at-the-edges BMW unit body, best I can remember before everything went dark. And that is the rationalization for my extended digression from the Job-at-Hand. Fabrication and welding of body panels is mentally and physically taxing. I have to put myself into artist/designer mode to imagine which parts to leave and when and where to cut, then do the manual labor to cut, shape, fit and weld the new panels. All that stuff is hard. Clicking the "bid" button is easy. "Sit," "stay" and "fetch" are hard; chasing the squirrels is easy.
Our philosophy here is the same as that guiding us in the motor purchase: Simple is Good. I won't reinvent any wheels literally or figuratively when it comes to gluing the Greyhound to the tarmac. In this context, the procedure loses all its complexity. I just find somebody who has experience in putting this model BMW on the track and borrow from them in setting up my car.
When it comes to setting up old-crock BMWs to win, Jeff Ireland, out in Duarte, Calif., is a veritable font of knowledge, so I dialed Jeff up and said, "Jeff, I'm building a 3.0 CS for the track. It looks a lot like a big 2002 from underneath, so here are my ideas." Jeff responded with some good ideas of his own, including a brake upgrade that wouldn't bust the budget: BMW 850i rotors paired with...yes...Corvette calipers! He also suggested adapting a set of Corvette eccentrics to the rear semi-trailing arms to provide camber adjustability.
The idea of using Corvette stuff on a BMW is a beautiful heresy. Everyone knows that the C5 offers more bang for the buck than any high-performance sports car out there, and the price contrast of parts for the Great American Sports Car with parts for a BMW will amaze you. So, Corvette it is.
Bilstein "shockers" (Brit term...I love it) with custom valving will provide the damping front and rear, and Jeff sourced a set of huge sway bars built by Suspension Techniques. The rear shock/coilover unit, coupled with the Corvette adjusters on the semi -trailing arm, will give me camber and ride-height adjustment at the rear, while camber plates and threaded aluminum adjusters will do the same at the front. The custom spring/shock coilover assemblies are a thing of beauty to behold. The brakes are mammoth. The whole setup is going to be a veritable symphony of anodized, powdercoated beauty. I can't wait to begin installing it.
Project Junkyard Greyhound--AKA BMW 3.0 CS
Part 1: Rust-bucket refugee to race-ready road rocket...on a budget
Part 2: Stripping the CS down to the bone
Part 3: "Zen and the Art of Not Bawling Like a Baby"--or, I take two steps forward and how many back? (aka bodywork)
Part 4: Welding: hot, nasty and oh, so necessary
Part 5: Keeping it simple-a "new" motor for the CS